We’ll have our traditional what to expect series previewing Illinois on Wednesday, but first up, Inside the Hall previews the Big Ten Tournament as a whole. The event tips off on Thursday afternoon:
2014 Big Ten Tournament bracket
Location: Indianapolis (Bankers Life Fieldhouse)
Dates: March 13-16
Teams with a bye: Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Nebraska
Television: BTN, ESPN, ESPN2, CBS
Most friendly path to Sunday: Michigan. The league champs finished the Big Ten regular season 15-3 and their lone loss to a team in the top half of the bracket came at the hands of Indiana at Assembly Hall. The bottom half of the bracket could be tricky for the higher seeded teams as Wisconsin could possibly play a desperate Minnesota team on Friday and Michigan State may be looking at a Friday matchup with Iowa, another team that will be desperate to improve its standing with the NCAA tournament selection committee after dropping five of six to finish the regular season.
Most entertaining first day matchup: Illinois-Indiana. Minnesota-Penn State deserves consideration because of the bubble implications for the Golden Gophers, but the slight edge goes to the tournament’s noon opener. At their best, the Illini and Hoosiers are capable of beating the league’s best teams, but a lack of consistency means both programs are headed to the NIT barring a four-game run in Indianapolis. Both regular season meetings were competitive with each team winning on its home court and a third meeting on a neutral floor should be no different.
(Photo credit: Dustin Johnson, UMHoops.com)
The Inside the Hall Big Ten Power Rankings are back following the final week of league play. This week’s rankings feature a look at where all 12 teams in the Big Ten stand following what was a thrilling — and unpredictable — regular season.
Without further ado, check out where each team stands after all 18 games of league play:
12. Purdue (15-16, 5-13, PPP: 1.0, PPP Allowed: 1.08) (LAST WEEK: 11) … The Boilermakers are in free-fall mode, losing their sixth-straight game this past Sunday — at home — to Northwestern. And with that, it sealed the Boilermakers’ spot alone in last place in the conference standings. After the loss to the Wildcats, coach Matt Painter said the fall of his program has been “my fault.” Well, the Boilermakers now have a ways to go to get back to the top echelon of the league.
11. Northwestern (13-18, 6-12, PPP: .88, PPP Allowed: 1.03) (LAST WEEK: 12) … It took until the last game of the regular season, but the Wildcats finally got back into the win column. After losing seven straight after starting the Big Ten season with a 5-5 mark, the Wildcats went into West Lafayette on Sunday and breezed their way to a 74-65 win in which Purdue did not offer much resistance. Finally, the Wildcats got something to build on.
10. Penn State (15-16, 6-12, PPP: 1.0, PPP Allowed: 1.06) (LAST WEEK: 10) … Pat Chambers’ squad might not have gotten the end to the season it had hoped for in an 18-point loss at Minnesota on Sunday, but it’s been a season of progress for the Nittany Lions, who finished the regular season outside of last place for the first time since the 2010-2011 season. They do get a second chance at the Golden Gophers this Thursday in Indianapolis in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament.
The Big Ten will announce its All-Big Ten teams and awards later tonight, but here’s the Inside the Hall staff’s selections for the various honors that will be handed out:
All-Big Ten freshman team
· Noah Vonleh, Indiana; Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin; Derrick Walton, Michigan; Kendrick Nunn, Illinois; Zak Irvin, Michigan
Comment: The first four selections were no-brainers, but the last slot went to Irvin over Troy Williams, Stanford Robinson and Purdue’s Kendall Stephens because he played valuable minutes on a team that finished 15-3 and he made 42.6 percent of his 3s in league play. Irvin was also the fourth most efficient freshman.
All-Big Ten defensive team
· Aaron Craft, Ohio State; Jordan Morgan, Michigan; Gary Harris, Michigan State; Shannon Scott, Ohio State; A.J. Hammons, Purdue
Comment: The Buckeyes land two players on our all-defensive team for anchoring the Big Ten’s best defense. Morgan hasn’t received enough credit for helping hold things together in the post for the Wolverines after the loss of Mitch McGary. Despite playing for last place Purdue, Hammons led the conference in blocks.
All-Big Ten teams
· Third team: Aaron Craft, Ohio State; D.J. Newbill, Penn State; Aaron White, Iowa; Noah Vonleh, Indiana; Deandre Mathieu, Minnesota
Note: Only stats for games where the opponent is currently in the RPI top 150 are included in this post.
There is no doubt that Indiana’s season thus far has been chaotic and unpredictable, marred by some bad losses but boosted by some great wins. And while predicting how the team will perform on a given night might seem a bit like flipping a coin, there has been one unwavering presence: Yogi Ferrell.
The absolutely tremendous year Yogi is having has been somewhat lost in the fray of a tumultuous season. IU hasn’t had a scorer like Yogi since Eric Gordon was in Bloomington for his only season as a Hoosier. Still, Gordon was a shooting guard who had other teammates directing the offense and looking to open things up for him, while Yogi is not only the leading scorer but also the team’s primary facilitator.
There is an inherent paradox that arises when a team’s leading assist man is also its leading scorer: When to score and when to assist?
Long before this season even began, it was well-known what this Indiana team would do during the 2013-2014 season. It would win games it shouldn’t. It would also lose games it shouldn’t.
And with just one game remaining in the regular season, that has been exactly the case.
Indiana had lost two straight, a few weeks ago, to Penn State and Purdue — two of the bottom three teams in the Big Ten. It responded with two wins over ranked opponents in Iowa and Ohio State. Perhaps this team had turned the corner. We should know better.
In front of a packed crowd at Assembly Hall on senior night Wednesday evening, the Hoosiers (17-13, 7-10) fell to Nebraska, 70-60. It was just the third road win for the Cornhuskers this season.
“We just didn’t do enough,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said after the game.
The Inside the Hall Big Ten Power Rankings are back as we enter the final week of conference play. This week’s rankings feature a couple shake-ups in the top four and several throughout the bottom seven, as we head into the final stretch of what has been a thrilling regular season.
Without further ado, check out where each team stands after week nine of league play:
12. Northwestern (12-17, 5-11, PPP: .89, PPP Allowed: 1.03) (LAST WEEK: 12) … The Wildcats remain at the bottom of this week’s power rankings as their lone game last week, at Nebraska, resulted in a 54-47 loss. They played it to the pace they want — a 57-possession game — but as of recently the Wildcats just simply haven’t been able to win those types of games. They’re now on a six-game losing streak entering the final week of the season. (Up next: March 6 vs. Penn State, March 9 at Purdue)
11. Purdue (15-14, 5-11, PPP: 1.0, PPP Allowed: 1.07) (LAST WEEK: 8) … It’s hard to look past the Boilermakers’ loss to Michigan this past week, in which the Boilermakers had every opportunity to knock out the Big Ten leader. But the Wolverines came storming back, forced overtime without ever even holding a lead in the game and won on a last-second lay-up from Glenn Robinson III. And the Boilermakers followed that with a deflating loss at Iowa on Sunday in which they, again, got close and couldn’t finish the deal. Purdue, this season, doesn’t have one win over a team ranked in the KenPom.com top 50. They’re the only Big Ten team without one. (Up next: March 5 at Wisconsin, March 9 vs. Northwestern)
One of the harsh realities of Indiana’s season thus far is that, in so many games, they’ve been really close. How close? Six of their eight Big Ten losses have been by seven or less points and the average margin of defeat in these games is just 4.5 points.
Only three of Indiana’s 13 Big Ten games have not been “close”. (For the duration of this article a “close” game indicates that the score difference was five points or less at some point in the final five minutes of the game.) Only Ohio State and Minnesota have played in more close games than Indiana this season and each has a better winning percentage than the Hoosiers. Though no program deals in “could-haves,” the reality is that the season might have a much different feel if IU had closed out some of these tight games, particularly in conference play.
Here’s a look at how each Big Ten team has fared in close games for both the conference season and the non-conference season:
It is no surprise that the teams at the top of the conference standings — Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin — are some of the best in the league at winning close games. Likewise, teams like Indiana, Illinois, and Penn State have had trouble converting these close games into wins and find themselves looking up in the standings.
So what exactly are the good teams doing that the others are not?